Although rumors of wolf content in the Tamaskan breed have been rife for years, until now there was no substantial evidence of such. One DNA parentage test was conducted several years ago (on dogs that were not microchipped and only identified by name) to 'prove' that Valko (a Finnish dog) was 'Whitefang' - the sire of Summer and Skye. However, there was no DNA evidence linking Valko to his own sire (alleged to be Boogie, a high content wolfdog). Without a direct clear-cut chain of confirmed parentage, with properly identified dogs (microchip etc) such 'evidence' was reduced to weak speculation at best.
Recently, several Tamaskan Dogs around the world were DNA tested for wolf content by the laboratory at UC Davis, which has developed a new DNA test for particular genetic markers that are found in American wolves. Of the Tamaskans that were DNA sampled, several tested positive for wolf content (the results thus determined that those Tamaskans are 'wolf hybrids') while others tested negative (thus, those Tamaskans are simply regular dogs without any wolf genes). Obviously this only affects particular bloodlines...
- Bobbi (Saarloos with Czech blood further back in the pedigree) X Summer (Whitefang x Paloose) = at least one offspring from this combination tested positive as a 'wolf hybrid'
- Skye (Whitefang x Paloose) X Nevada (Banjo x Tumanra) = at least one offspring from this combination tested positive as a 'wolf hybrid'
- Jackal (Oskari x Pauliine) X Jodie (Ivan x Dixy) = at least one offspring from this combination tested positive as a 'wolf hybrid'
The UC Davis DNA test costs $150 per dog - for financial reasons, we are simply not able to test all of the Foundation Dogs / bloodlines. IF I had such money to spare personally, I would gladly test ALL of my own dogs to see if any of them test positive (or not) for wolf content. However, I am of the opinion that only certain dogs from particular bloodlines will test positive for wolf genes. Whether these dogs actually are 'wolf hybrids' or simply have 'traces' of wolf genes in their DNA (yet are many generations removed and those few wolf genes are very well diluted) remains to be seen. It IS possible that the wolf genes come from Summer / Skye (out of Whitefang - IF the Valko rumors are true) however, it is also possible that the detected wolf content comes from Saarloos / Czech content several generations ago - the problem is that the laboratory is unable to distinguish whether the genes are inherited from the maternal or paternal side and, moreover, that their DNA test primarily focused on US wolves (which potentially rules out DNA markers for Czech / Saarloos as those breeds were developed from European wolves). IF Bobbi and Nevada and Jackal are all tested, and come back clear, then we could determine that the wolf content comes from Summer / Skye / Jodie. However, if all (or any) of those dogs test positive then it means that they are also 'carriers' of wolf genes.
That being said, the accuracy of this DNA test also needs to be further examined. For instance, several dog breeds (which look nothing like wolves) are known to share very close ancestry with wolves (Shar Pei, Lhasa Apso, etc) so until several individuals of these particular breeds are tested (and the results compared with those obtained from Tamaskan Dogs) we will be unable to confirm the accuracy of such a DNA test to truly determine 'wolf content'. It is, however, pertinent to expect that SOME Tamaskan bloodlines WILL test positive for wolf content with this particular DNA test (from the laboratory of UC Davis). I do know that several dogs in Finland were recently sampled for DNA testing, whether that is for parentage analysis or for the wolf content DNA test remains to be seen. Either way, if we are all aware of this information (and the possible implications) then we can use it to our advantage: knowledge is power. By making informed choices and putting this information 'on the table' it is clear that nothing is being kept hidden. Keeping it secret only makes it look like there is something to hide.
Anyway, for those who own Tamaskan Dogs in areas where wolfdogs are illegal, it would be an idea (if you can spare the cash) to have your own dogs tested just to be on the safe side (so that you can provide proof of no wolf content, if necessary). Furthermore, it would be a good idea if breeders could test their breeding dogs (if it is economically feasible) to find out if their breeding stock carries the wolf genes as that SHOULD influence which puppies will go to which owners (from particular bloodlines) depending on where the owner lives. The way I see it, some bloodlines will test positive for traces of wolf genes but that doesn't necessarily mean they are true 'wolf hybrids' - probably low content wolfdogs at the most. However, as far as authorities are concerned (since the test is unable to differentiate between F1-F5) it could cause some problems for owners - as long as all this information is known before a potential puppy purchaser puts down a deposit, it will allow them to make an informed decision about which bloodline they should select. Certain Tamaskan bloodlines are known to be 'wolf free' according to this DNA test (though, in reality, they could be from the same bloodlines just further generations removed, which means that the wolf genes were diluted out). The main thing is responsibly placing puppies in the right homes - even though nurture and upbringing can make a world of difference on a dog's behavior and doesn't truly indicate any potential wolf content (one Tamaskan bloodline could act much like any other, regardless of a few genetic markers here or there) the fact remains that SOME bloodlines COULD test positive with this particular DNA test.
INFO PROVIDED BY THE UC DAVIS LAB:
Our Wolf Hybridization report has 4 separate portions and result analysis. Below is a brief summary of the tests and analysis.
Mitochondrial DNA that will indicate if the mitochondrial DNA contribution is from dog or wolf. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited through the maternal line. Therefore we can detect female wolves in the linage of the subject animal.
Y chromosome, is used for male subject animals and looks for wolf vs. dog marker combinations on the Y chromosome. We will only detect a wolf contribution from father to son, to grandson and so on. Female offspring from the original male wolf do not inherit a Y, therefore a daughter of the wolf and her offspring will not have the Y chromosome wolf contribution.
Presence of wolf-specific alleles (variants). The DNA markers tested have some variants that are seen only in wolves, not dogs. However absence of these variants does not indicate that the subject animal is a dog; due to the close genetic relationship between dogs and wolves many variants are in common between wolves and dogs.
The population analysis uses 38 DNA markers for the subject which are compared against populations of known wolves and dogs. The dogs in our database are Alaskan Husky, Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Inuit dogs and German Shepherd dogs. We have wolf samples collected from across North America (Alaska, Canada and assorted populations in the contiguous USA). The population analysis program determines the statistical likelihood of inclusion within the dog or wolf populations. It also calculates the probability that a parent, grandparent or great grandparent is from another population. In the case of XXXXX (name hidden to protect the individual dog) there is wolf contribution detected, but not likely within 3 generations.
We use the 4 sections (or 3 in the case of females) listed above to determine our final analysis of dog, wolf or hybrid.